The MLB Breakdown offers data-driven analysis using the FantasyLabs Tools and predictive metrics to highlight notable players. 

Thursday features a nine-game main slate starting at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Pitchers

Studs

Three pitchers on today’s slate own a salary of at least $10,000 on FanDuel:

  • Gerrit Cole (R) $12,200, HOU @ DET
  • Max Scherzer (R) $12,000, WSH @ PIT
  • Noah Syndergaard (R) $10,000, NYM vs. CLE

The Astros lost as massive favorites on Wednesday, marking one of the largest upsets in MLB history. That said, it wasn’t due to the pitching performance from Justin Verlander. He racked up 11 strikeouts over nine innings, but the Astros offense sputtered and scored just one run.

They’ll have another opportunity to cover as huge favorites today with Cole on the mound. He leads the slate with a 2.6 opponent implied team total and -484 moneyline odds, and pitchers with comparable Vegas data have historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +5.42 on FanDuel (per the Trends tool). His K Prediction of 9.8 also ranks first on the slate.

The Tigers have been one of the best teams to target in DFS this season, particularly with right-handed pitchers. Those pitchers have averaged a Plus/Minus of +6.19 on FanDuel this season when facing the Tigers, which is the best mark in the league.

Cole also enters today’s contest in great recent form. He limited his last opponent to an average distance of 186 feet, which represents a decrease of 30 feet compared to his 12-month average.

Basically, this is one of the best pitchers in baseball in one of the best spots we’ve seen all season. There’s no reason to avoid him on today’s slate.

Scherzer will be making his first start in nearly a month after hitting the Injured List with a back injury. The Nationals are currently in a heated race for one of the NL Wild Card spots, and they’ll need Scherzer if they want to make a run in the playoffs.

He’s in a solid spot today vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates, resulting in an opponent implied team total of 3.5 runs and moneyline odds of -212. The only question is how long Scherzer will actually be able to pitch. He threw 64 pitches in a simulated game on Sunday, so it seems he’ll be limited in some capacity today. He makes more sense on DraftKings, where his $11,400 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 80%.

Syndergaard has been excellent over the second half of the season, pitching to a 2.04 ERA and 2.22 FIP. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his past four starts, and he’s increased his K/9 to 9.31.

Unfortunately, he’s in a tough spot today vs. the Cleveland Indians. Their offense has drastically improved over the course of the season, and they rank fifth in wRC+ against right-handers since the All-Star break. His opponent implied team total of 3.9 runs is significantly higher than the rest of the stud tier’s marks. The Indians’ projected lineup has posted a strikeout rate of 21.1% against right-handers over the past 12 months, so Syndergaard has diminished strikeout upside as well. He looks like a strong fade in all formats.

Values

Mike Soroka is priced at a discount compared to guys like Cole and Scherzer, but he provides similar Vegas data vs. the Marlins. Their projected lineup has posted a dreadful .276 wOBA and 32.1% strikeout rate against right-handers over the past 12 months, giving Soroka a 3.3 opponent implied team total and -288 moneyline odds. Pitchers with comparable Vegas data and salaries have historically been strong investments, posting an average Plus/Minus of +5.60 on FanDuel.

The Marlins have been nearly as good a matchup as the Tigers this season, providing right-handers with an average Plus/Minus of +5.12.

Soroka is an elite value on FanDuel, where his $9,300 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 79%.

German Marquez is another strong target on FanDuel given his Bargain Rating of 97%. He’s been drastically better on the road than at home this season, pitching to a 3.52 ERA, and he has an appealing matchup vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Their projected lineup has struggled against right-handers over the past 12 months, posting a .272 wOBA and 26.0% strikeout rate. Marquez owns a K Prediction of 8.3, which ranks second on the slate.

Ryan Yarbrough is coming of back-to-back great starts, recording 18 strikeouts while allowing zero earned runs over 15 innings. He’s been excellent in general since the All-Star break, pitching to a 1.51 ERA over 41.2 innings.

Unsurprisingly, his Statcast data from his past two starts is excellent. He’s limited opposing batters to an average distance of 171 feet, exit velocity of 87 miles per hour and hard-hit rate of 25%, all of which are among the best marks on the slate.

Yarbrough will look to make it three great starts in a row today vs. the Baltimore Orioles. Their projected lineup has posted a .315 wOBA and 25.0% strikeout rate against right-handers over the past 12 months, and they’re currently implied for just 3.5 runs. Yarbrough is also a -218 favorite, and he’s very reasonably priced at just $9,300 on DraftKings.

Fastballs

Kenta Maeda: His relatively low average pitch count is always concerning, but he has nice upside today vs. the Toronto Blue Jays. Their projected lineup has struggled against right-handers over the past 12 months, posting a .305 wOBA and 29.0% strikeout rate.

Aaron Civale: He’s one of the best pure values on DraftKings, where his $6,200 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 99%. The Mets offense has been impacted by injuries recently, and their projected lineup has posted a 28.3% strikeout rate over the past 12 months.

Notable Stacks

With the Lineup Builder, it’s easy to incorporate stacks into DFS lineups. Today’s top five-man DraftKings stack (per the Bales Model) belongs to the Atlanta Braves:

  • 1. Ronald Acuna (R)
  • 2. Ozzie Albies (S)
  • 4. Josh Donaldson (R)
  • 5. Matt Joyce (L)
  • 7. Adeiny Hechavarria (R)

Total Salary: $22,600

The Braves are currently implied for 6.2 runs, which is the top mark on today’s slate. Their top stack is also very reasonably priced at $22,600 on DraftKings, resulting in a Team Value Rating of 82.

They have a nice matchup vs. Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara. He was an All-Star this season, but he’s been drastically worse over the second half of the year. He’s pitched to a 5.66 ERA and FIP, and he’s walking nearly as many batters as he’s striking out per nine innings.

Alcantara has struggled in particular against left-handed batters over that time frame, allowing them to post a .362 wOBA. That bodes well for Joyce, who has crushed the baseball over the past 15 days. His average distance of 260 feet represents an increase of 31 feet compared to his 12-month average.

The Braves are an even better value on FanDuel. Joyce is priced at $2,100 and Hechavarria is priced at $2,300, so they unsurprisingly own the top four-man stack as well. That said, they should command significant ownership, so the Rays could be an interesting pivot:

  • 1. Austin Meadows (L)
  • 2. Tommy Pham (R)
  • 3. Ji-Man Choi (L)
  • 7. Eric Sogard (L)

Total Salary: $13,800

The Rays are currently implied for 5.8 runs, which ranks third on the slate. They’re taking on Orioles right-hander Asher Wojciechowski, who has pitched to a 5.52 FIP this season. The Rays have fared well against Woj so far this season, scoring four earned runs over six innings.

Choi has crushed right-handers over the past 12 months, posting a .367 wOBA and .197 ISO, and he enters this contest in excellent form. He’s posted an average distance of 254 feet, exit velocity of 94 mph and hard-hit rate of 45% over the past 15 days, all of which represent increases compared to his 12-month averages.

Other Batters

Shin-Soo Choo is on the wrong side of his splits against White Sox left-hander Ross Detwiler, so he could be a bit overlooked today. Still, he’s crushed the ball over the past 15 days, and the Rangers are currently implied for 5.7 runs. Leadoff hitters with comparable implied team totals have historically been nice investments, posting an average Plus/Minus of +2.15 on FanDuel.

Howie Kendrick leads the slate with 10 Pro Trends on FanDuel, where his $2,700 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 99%. He’s taking on Pirates left-hander Steven Brault, and Kendrick has posted a .391 wOBA and .202 ISO against southpaws over the past 12 months. He’s also posted some of the craziest Statcast data I’ve ever seen over his past four games: 329-foot distance, 106 mph exit velocity and 83% hard-hit rate. Kendrick is going to post elite fantasy numbers if he continues to make that kind of contact.

Gary Sanchez has alternated between struggling and being injured over the past few months, which has caused his salary to drop to $4,200 on DraftKings. It results in a Bargain Rating of 98%, which makes this an excellent opportunity to buy low on a talented slugger.

Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more in-depth MLB analysis.

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Pictured above: Astros SP Gerrit Cole (45)
Photo credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports